Gamer brains can cut learning curve
A new study suggests that playing action video games like Call of Duty can actually improve learning capability.
“Prior research by our group and others has shown that action gamers excel at many tasks. In this new study, we show they excel because they are better learners,” says Daphne Bavelier, a research professor in brain and cognitive sciences in the US.
“And they become better learners by playing the fast-paced action games.”
She said it was all about boosting the prediction skills human naturally have.
“In order to sharpen its prediction skills, our brains constantly build models, or ‘templates’, of the world,” she explained.
“The better the template, the better the performance. And now we know playing action video game actually fosters better templates.”
In the latest study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a research team used pattern discrimination tasks to compare action video gamers’ visual performance with people who did not play.
The action-gamers outperformed the non-action gamers, because (the researchers say) their brains used a better template for the task at hand.
In a second experiment, people with little video game experience were made to learn for 50 hours over the course of nine weeks on either action video games, or non-action video games, such as The Sims.
The trainees were then compared to habitual action-gamers, and the action game trainees improved their templates, compared to the control group learning on non-action video games.
In a third test, researchers gave action gamers a perceptual learning task, and found that the action video game players could actually build and fine tune their mental templates faster than non-action game control participants, on the fly a and while remaining engaged in the task.
“When they began the perceptual learning task, action video gamers were indistinguishable from non-action gamers; they didn’t come to the task with a better template,” said Bavelier.
“Instead, they developed better templates for the task, much, much faster showing an accelerated learning curve.”
Buoyed by its findings, the team is now looking at which aspects of action video games are most effective in boosting players’ learning.